PARKERSBURG - Imlay Field is finally going to have what should be its last official season opener come 7:30 p.m. Friday when host St. Marys tangles with Little Kanawha Conference football rival Ritchie County.
Fourth-year Ritchie County head coach Mike Dawson didn't pull any punches when asked what he thought the outcome would be this year against the Blue Devils, who waltzed into Ellenboro last season and rolled to a 32-10 victory.
"I don't know how it will end up. I really don't," admitted Dawson, who like St. Marys (Evan Illar) is breaking in a new quarterback with Corey Farley.
St. Marys and Ritchie County do battle at Chuck Schofield Memorial Stadium last season. The Rebels will be looking to get revenge for a 32-10 loss on Friday night at Imlay Field in St. Marys.
"Corey is going to be a nice quarterback, but he's not ready to run the ball 12 or 15 times. Corey was our backup last year (to Alex Lipscomb)."
Blue Devil head coach Jodi Mote said his expected starting signal-caller (Illar) suffered an ankle injury during last week's scrimmage against Brooke and his status for Friday night is up in the air.
"If he can't go, Wesley Parsons will be our quarterback," said Mote, whose squad will lean on Jeremy Pratt, Corey Stewart, Jared Bills and Bret Fetty to move the ball on the ground.
Victory for the Blue Devils in this game last year helped the Pleasants County squad run the table to a perfect regular season and another Class A playoff berth.
"Your first game of the year, it can set the tone obviously for your season," Mote added. "But, irregardless, it's not the season, so you just got to focus on the following week whatever happens on Friday and work to get better regardless of what happens."
Since Dawson has been the head coach at Ritchie County, not getting off to a fast start early in the season has been a trend. It's one the coach is hoping to end sooner rather than later.
"I think we are slightly intimidated by them. We beat them the first year," said Dawson, whose team has advanced to the Class AA playoffs each season he's been at Ritchie County, but is now trying to stop a two-game losing streak to the Blue Devils. "I just hope we can step up and give a good account of ourselves.
"I don't think there is a reason we can't win if we don't make mistakes. They've thrown a halfback pass against us all three years. They threw it twice last year. So you know, I told the kids and that's about all you can do and I'm sure I'll see it again this year."
Aside from Farley, the Rebels feature backs Orlando Burgy, Tyler Reed, Tristan Ray and lanky wideout Jayden Allender.
"It's hard to believe it's here," Mote added of the season opener being so close and having another chance to start 1-0.
"That's been our emphasis (1-0 start) with our kids. You want to make a memory at Imlay and hope it's a positive one each time you are out there."